#MentorMonday: Stacey Boynton
Welcome to #MentorMonday! Mondays are dedicated to celebrating Black LICENSED Architects, Designers, and individuals in the profession of Architecture! The questions asked to these individuals are to allow us into their lives and to be used as an inspiration. I hope you all enjoy this series. The opinions and views expressed do not reflect those of America’s Hidden Gem(TM). They are exclusively opinions of those by whom they’re shared.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
For as long as I can remember, I loved art. When I would be at home, I remember folding a piece of 8.5 x 11 drawing paper into four sections. I would then draw roads at the creases and in each corner I would draw a building. They were buildings I was familiar with like my home, my school, a restaurant and the park.
As I got older, maybe around middle school age, my parents were looking to by a house and that was the first time I had ever seen a floor plan. I was so amazed at how something on a sheet of paper could explain the physical model home we were walking through. Shortly after that I found myself doodling floor plans in my free time.
By the time I was ready for high school, it just so happen my home school was a magnet school for architecture and design. There I enrolled in architectural classes where I met Mr. Lewis. He first saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself at the time and that this would be my passion. He was the first person to really pushed me to pursue architecture in college.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
It means I have a big job. Almost two fold.
Not only as an architectural designer that has to protect the health safety and welfare of people, but also to educate my community.
Lately, I feel I have more of a responsibility to inform my community of what architecture is and as architectural designers what we do. Often times, I get referred to as an interior decorator or someone who only designs houses when we know that is not the whole story.
Our culture views other professions i.e. doctors, lawyers, professional athletes as “making it”, but I want to promote architecture and the design community as the same. There are so many great careers that can be had from an architectural degree or experience and I feel our under representation is partly because we just aren’t informed. So part of my responsibility as a black architect/interior designer will be to educate my community starting with our youth.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?
My obstacles are within myself, and that is showing confidence. I have been fortunate enough to have a great principal/mentor and co workers that genuinely want to see me succeed. I have also had amazing professors that felt the same. So my obstacles are and have been realizing the natural gift within myself and manifesting it in my day to day. That’s where having the confidence comes in.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
Absolutely not. Recently I’ve heard stories from other black architects that had me floored that they would be experiencing certain things at this day and age. Granted I have not had similar experience but I feel if a colleague of mine of the same race has an experience like that, it a problem and needs to be addressed. We have to be all in this together to make a change.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?
1- Be different or allow your creative side to take over. Even if it doesn’t seem practical as long as it feels right. And don’t be afraid to say that “ it just feels right”.
2- Don’t Quit . I would imagine all of us have shed blood sweat and tears in school and trust me, it will pay off. I mean don’t quit once you graduate with your degree either but continue to get your license. There is nothing like driving down the street and seeing a building that you have worked hard on. It’s rewarding.
3- Travel and see the world. One of the most memorable college experiences for me was when I did study abroad in Japan. It was literally a different world. I may have been the only black person for miles but there it didn’t seem to matter. It felt good to see how another culture lives and views architecture and design. Something I will never forget.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many low points. Some of them so low, I can’t tell if one was lower than the other. Lol . But I will tell you my most recent.
It was the third attempt of my first exam. I literally said to myself, right before I hit start on the screen, if I don’t pass this one, this is it! I’m done! I’m not going through this anymore.
So I took a deep breathe and said “let’s go, you got this! “( the words from my husband)
I overcame that with a PASS! Then I said , “alright I’ll keep going “ lol.
How important is representation?
Very!!!! I recently read an article which quoted Shirley Chisholm when she famously said “ if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”.
I find it amazing how quotes like this one, said decades ago, are still so relevant today, timely even!
Representation is extreme important because as black women we are putting in the work and it shows. We are talented, skilled and have a lot to offer when it comes to decision making and representation. I don’t feel we should wait to be invited to have a seat at the table but it is our responsibility to demand it.
When we are there great things happen and we become role models showing those behind us that nothing is impossible.